It’s rivalry season. Or maybe it’s playoff season. Or it’s just both. This season, a rivalry that has been longstanding gets it’s playoff renewal. The Keystone State rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins gets re-enacted.
Regular Season Matchups
The two teams met four times in the regular season with the Penguins winning all four meetings and sweeping the season series. It was a matchup problem for the Flyers in 2017-18′ but that may or may not have any effect on a playoff series.
Interestingly enough, the Penguins scored exactly five goals in all four games against the Flyers. Sidney Crosby had nine points in the four games and dominated the Flyers stepping up his game like he usually does in the big time rivalry games. Tristan Jarry played three of the four games against Philadelphia this season. Matt Murrayappeared in two of the games but was injured in one of them.
As for the Flyers, they pushed the Penguins to overtime twice so despite losing all four games, the series hasn’t been as lopsided as presented. They will be looking for Brian Elliott to return to form as they currently are relying on Petr Mrazek to man the backup crease despite being largely inconsistent in his short Flyers tenure.
The Penguins were able to get home ice advantage in the first round so they have the Flyers traveling to this side of the state for the first two games. With the home record they possess over the last 20 games, the Penguins want nothing more than to head to Philadelphia as winners of the first two games.
Already having Crosby, Murray, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kesselon their roster, they are going to get center Derick Brassard back just in time as he was nursing a groin injury. They also will have Kris Letang back for this run as he sat out last season after neck surgery.
Head coach Mike Sullivan has not lost a playoff series since taking over as the Penguins’ head coach two short seasons ago. He has faith in his young goaltender to do it again.
The special teams for the Penguins set a record in powerplay percentage this season despite going very cold over their last 10 games. This powerplay beat the likes of the Mario Lemieux days. Try stopping this powerplay: Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Letang, and Patric Hornqvist. That’s only the top powerplay. The second one likely will consist of something like Jake Guentzel, Brassard, Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta, and any forward of your choice, Jeez.
Defensively, the Penguins need to stay healthy to avoid depth issues. Letang, Schultz, Maatta, and Brian Dumoulin form a solid top four. Jamie Oleksiak and Chad Ruhwedel are a decent bottom pair. The Penguins don’t want Matt Hunwick playing too many postseason games. It won’t work well. If they have multiple injuries on defense, this series won’t last long.
If you’ve watched the Flyers play this season, you’ve seen Claude Girouxbecome one of the most dynamic players in the game. It’s funny because it has truly been a while since Giroux has been named among the top 10 players and legitimately had a case to be. This season was different.
He posted 102 points this season and helped push a Flyers team that had many inconsistencies after Elliott went down to the playoffs. They’ve got guys like Shayne Gostisbehere and Wayne Simmonds who love to play and be pesky against the Penguins.
The Flyers also have the motivation of being swept on their side. They don’t want to be beaten and lose 8 games to the Penguins in a season. That would be demoralizing.
Between Mrazek, Elliott, and Alex Lyon, the Flyers know who their number one is and how badly they need him to play well if they want to win this series.
- Evgeni Malkin, C: 78 GP, 42 G, 56 A, 98 PTS, +16
- Phil Kessel, RW: 82 GP, 34 G, 58 A, 92 PTS, -4
- Sidney Crosby, C: 82 GP, 29 G, 60 A, 89 PTS, 0
- Kris Letang, D: 79 GP, 9 G, 42 A, 51 PTS, -9
- Patric Hornqvist, RW: 70 GP, 29 G, 20 A, 49 PTS, +2
- Matt Murray, G: 49 GP, 27-16-3, 2.92 GAA, .907 SV%, 1 SO
- Casey DeSmith, G: 14 GP, 6-4-1, 2.40 GAA, .921 SV%, 1 SO
- Claude Giroux, LW: 82 GP, 34 G, 68 A, 102 PTS, +28
- Jakub Voracek, RW: 82 GP, 20 G, 65 A, 85 PTS, +10
- Sean Courtruier, C: 82 GP, 31 G, 45 A, 76 PTS, +34
- Shayne Gostisbehere, D: 78 GP, 13 G, 52 A, 65 PTS, +10
- Travis Konecny, 81 GP, 24 G, 23 A, 47 PTS, +17
- Brian Elliott, G: 43 GP, 23-11-7, 2.66 GAA, .909 SV%, 1 SO
- Petr Mrazek, G: 17 GP, 6-6-3, 3.22 GAA, .891 SV%, 1 SO
- Alex Lyon, G: 11 GP, 4-2-1, 2.75 GAA, .905 SV%, 0 SO